Congratulations to Dance Magazine Leadership Award Honoree Nigel Redden
General director of Spoleto Festival USA since 1995 and, for two decades (1998-2017), the director of the Lincoln Center Festival, Nigel Redden has an internationalist's point of view on the arts—expansive, curious, informed by the cultural wealth that the world has to offer.
He is the son of an American diplomat and grew up moving from place to place—Cyprus, Israel, Canada, Italy—until eventually setting of for Yale to study Art History. After visiting the Spoleto festival in Italy as a young man, and working there while he was still an undergraduate, he very quickly realized what he wanted to: direct festivals. And that's what he has done for most of the last quarter century.
How did you get drawn into the world of festivals?
I started at Spoleto in 1969, the summer after my freshman year. I had seen a certain number of the companies in other contexts, and I thought it was wonderful to see these performances in juxtaposition, and to see how, to some extent, they informed each other. In the final analysis, every performance is about a kind of human message. By the time I was 20, I knew I wanted to run a festival.
Where does your love of dance come from?
My own interest in dance began when I was in high school. I suppose I saw Nureyev and Fonteyn. My great-grandfather was part owner of Theatre Royal, in Australia. My mother had very vivid memories of the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo coming to Australia; she had these wonderful stories of getting to know the dancers. It seemed natural to want to go.
Then, that first year at Spoleto I saw Merce Cunningham. I had read some of John Cage's work and was terrified of meeting him. I saw an "event," and it was totally mystifying. This was 1969. I didn't understand it at all. But then when I started working at BAM in 1973, there was a series of events at the Lepercq Space, and they were absolutely transformational. All of a sudden it made sense.
The wonderful thing about dance is that it's about seeing a body move in a way most of us can't and finding some way in which this means something to you. It's difficult to articulate with words, but you have this strong feeling that something has been revealed to you.
What is special about festivals—what do they provide that a regular season cannot?
I've found the pressure and intensity of a festival brings out the best in performers. A community of artists is being created. And they know the audience isn't just there because it was part of their subscription series. And also the best in audiences. The audiences come with the expectation that they're going to enjoy it. People are more open-minded. They're more prepared to see things they might not usually want to buy tickets for.
For a long time, you directed both Spoleto USA, based in Charleston, and the Lincoln Center Festival in New York. How did they fit together in your mind's eye?
I think they fit together by being different. The Spoleto festival takes over a small town, and the audience comes from all over. So what we have tried to do there is give a kind of wonderful banquet of the arts. In New York, the audience was more local and more aware of what was being performed throughout the year. So there, the idea was to extend the definition of Lincoln Center. I felt it was essential, in New York, to include classical traditions from other parts of the world: Kabuki, Noh, Pansori. And also, to include parts of the broader European tradition that aren't seen here.
What, to you, was the ultimate aim of the Lincoln Center Festival?
I think it was about discovery in the sense that one is discovering classicisms from around the world. The number of people who knew about Kunqu opera prior to our performances of the Peony Pavilion was mostly limited to people who came from that culture. A lot of people found out about it as a result of the Festival. The Japan Society does a great job bringing performing arts from Japan, but the audience tends to be less broad. When we brought over Kanze Noh Theatre last year, there was an intensity about that performance that was possible because Lincoln Center had the resources to build a Noh stage. When you're doing something at Lincoln Center you tend to do it right.
Where did the idea for last year's performances of Balanchine's Jewels by three companies—New York City Ballet, Paris Opéra and the Bolshoi—come from?
I'd been working on the idea for years and years. The idea was that Balanchine had worked in all three countries. Emeralds does seem to be inspired by French dance. And I think it's difficult to look at Diamonds and not think of imperial Russia.
It took a lot of cajoling. There are always logistical problems. The French dancers are usually off that time of year. So the dancers who danced here moved their vacations, which meant they weren't available to the company at the beginning of September. It all happened during the transition between Benjamin Millepied and Aurélie Dupont's directorship of the company. Benjamin had been quite enthusiastic, and fortunately Aurélie was too.
What is lost with the disappearance of a large, eclectic festival like Lincoln Center Festival?
I think inevitably there's going to be less programming at Lincoln Center. We were in discussion with several European companies as well as large Asian companies that now won't have a home in New York. I assume a home will emerge at some point. New York is too important a place for performers not to perform.
Is New York City in danger of slipping behind other cultural capitals?
I think it has already. The fact that there's only one opera company is a pity. But it still seems to be a place choreographers want to come to—there's still a kind of energy here. Even though the costs of studio space and living space are very high. When I first moved to New York I rented an apartment for $40 a month, which meant it really didn't matter how much money I earned, because the expenses were so low.
What is your advice to young festival directors?
I became director of the performing arts program at the Walker Arts Center when I was 25. We did a dance festival called New Dance America there, and the idea was to see if we could get an audience for Trisha Brown and David Gordon and Laura Dean and Lucinda Childs. So I feel that that is what a young festival director should do: find an audience for the people that person believes in.
Are there enough women running big festivals in the US?
I'm not sure there are enough women running things generally. After I left Spoleto my first boss was Ellen Stewart. She was amazing. But over time it became more and more clear that it was difficult for women to get these top leadership positions. I'm sure I've benefited from the fact that I'm male.
It's also an issue of people of a different color than mine. It's a big issue. I'm certainly aware of having white privilege. I didn't have those disadvantages of having to fight stereotypes. I still think they very much exist.
You speak a lot about classicism—what does that word mean to you?
I think it means work that has stood the test of time. That is, that somehow still has a resonance. Classicism has informed the world we live in; it's still a living tradition. On some level it's about a sense of history. I believe history is useful for us. We need to know where we came from. We didn't just invent ourselves. Life is richer if you have a more dynamic sense of the past.
Even if you haven't heard her name, you've almost certainly seen the work of commercial choreographer James Alsop. Though she's made award-winning dances for Beyoncé ("Run the World," anyone?) and worked with stars like Lady GaGa and Janelle Monae, Alsop's most recent project may be her most powerful: A moving music video for Everytown for Gun Safety, directed by Ezra Hurwitz and featuring students from the National Dance Institute.
We caught up with Alsop for our "Spotlight" series:
I want to make an apology because, in my opening speech at the Dance Magazine Awards on Monday, I inadvertently left out one awardee. I said, "Tonight we are honoring four outstanding dance artists who have contributed to the dance field over time." But then I named only three. How could I have forgotten Lourdes Lopez?!?!
We had all been hearing about Lourdes's taking the helm at Miami City Ballet with grace, intelligence, compassion and new ideas. I was planning to say, "Lourdes Lopez, who has brought new life to Miami City Ballet" because I thought that would cover a lot of ground. (My only quibble with myself was whether to say "brought new life" or "gave new life.")
Each year, The New York Times Magazine shines a spotlight on who they deem to be the best actors of the year in its Great Performers series. But, what we're wondering is, can they dance? Thankfully, the NYT Mag recruited none other than Justin Peck to put them to the test.
Peck choreographed and directed a series of 10 short dance films, placing megastars in everyday situations: riding the subway, getting out of bed in the morning, waiting at a doctor's office.
Today, we are thrilled to announce the honorees of the 2018 Dance Magazine Awards. A tradition dating back to 1954, the Dance Magazine Awards celebrate the living legends who have made a lasting impact on dance. This year's honorees include:
Get Dance Magazine in your inbox
On busy performance days, international guest artist Joy Womack always makes time for one activity after class and rehearsals: a nap. "I like to feel well-rested when I need to be in the spotlight at night, not dragging at the end of the day," she says. "It helps me recover and refocus."
With her earbuds tuned to a guided meditation app, she can squeeze in a nap wherever she needs to. "One time I even took a nap on the floor of the tour bus in Siberia," she says. "Dancers can sleep anywhere."
Joy Womack prioritizes napping before a show. Photo by Quinn Wharton for Pointe magazine.
As research has revealed the benefits of short daytime naps, power-napping advice has proliferated, and more dancers are choosing to include a nap in their pre-performance routines. Approaching napping strategically will help you get the most out of an afternoon snooze.
On Monday night, a memorial was held at Riverside Church to honor the life and achievements of Dance Theatre of Harlem co-founder Arthur Mitchell. With nearly three months to process and grieve (Mitchell passed away on September 19) the atmosphere was not that of mourning as much as reflection, reverence and admiration for who he was, what he built and what remains. (Watch the full livestream here.)
The church filled with family, artistic friends, fans and admirers. What was most gratifying was the volume of DTH alumni from the school, company and organization who traveled across the globe to pay their respects, from founding members to present dancers and students. The house of worship was filled with the sentiment of a family reunion. As Mitchell was sent home, it was a homecoming for many who have not shared air together in decades. What was palpable was the authentic bonds that Dance Theatre of Harlem and Mitchell fostered in all.
Fans of the sublime English National Ballet first artist Precious Adams were probably excited to see her image splashed across the company's website in a promotional image for an upcoming production of Swan Lake.
But those who took a closer look were met with a disappointing reality: Adams, who is the only black woman in the company, is not listed on the principal casting sheet for the production.
Gennadi Nedvigin is not the only early tenure director breaking out a new production of The Nutcracker this season.
We love The Nutcracker as much as the next person, but that perennial holiday classic isn't the only thing making its way onstage this month. Here are five alternatives that piqued our editors' curiosity.
The Nutcracker is synonymous with American ballet. So when Gennadi Nedvigin took the helm at Atlanta Ballet in 2016, a new version of the holiday classic was one of his top priorities. This month, evidence of two years' worth of changes will appear when the company unwraps its latest version at Atlanta's Fox Theatre Dec. 8–24. Choreographed by Yuri Possokhov and produced on a larger-than-ever scale for Atlanta, the new ballet represents Nedvigin's big ambitions.
Ballet Hispánico returns to the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem with its full-length ballet, CARMEN.maquia. Spanish choreographer Gustavo Ramirez Sansano has reenvisioned the story of Carmen to emphasize Don José, the man who falls in love with Carmen, suffers because of her infidelity, then murders her in a "fit of passion." Their duets are filled with all the sensuality, jealousy and violence you could wish for—in a totally contemporary dance language.
Sansano's previous piece for Ballet Hispánico, El Beso, bloomed with a thousand playful and witty ways of expressing desire. He has a knack for splicing humor into romance.
Not being able to attend the in-person audition at your top college can feel like the end of the world. But while it's true that going to the live audition is ideal, you can still make the best out of sending a video. Here are some of the perks:
It's become a colloquialism—or, we admit, a cliche—to say that dance can heal.
But with a new initiative launched by British Health Secretary Matt Hancock, doctors in the U.K. will soon be able to prescribe dance classes—along with art, music, sports, gardening and more—for patients suffering from conditions as various as dementia, lung problems and mental health issues.
We always figured that stretching made us more flexible by loosening up our muscles and joints. Some of us, ahem, might have even tried to fall asleep in our middle splits to get our stubbornly stiff inner thighs to let go.
But it turns out that might not actually be how stretching works.
A new review published in the Scandinavian Journal of Science & Medicine in Sports suggests that increased flexibility actually comes from your brain growing more used to the tension.
New York City Ballet fired principal dancers Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro on Saturday. Both had initially been suspended until 2019 for engaging in "inappropriate communications," while principal Chase Finlay, who was the instigator of those communications, resigned. (Although, in a statement on Saturday, NYCB made it clear they had decided to terminate Finlay prior to his resignation.)
The New York Times reports that NYCB says the change from suspension to termination resulted from hearing the concerns of dancers, staff members and others in the NYCB community. Yet it's hard to ignore the fact that a lawsuit against NYCB had been filed in the meantime. A statement from NYCB executive director Katherine Brown and interim artistic team leader Jonathan Stafford stated:
"We have no higher obligation than to ensure that our dancers and staff have a workplace where they feel respected and valued, and we are committed to providing that environment for all employees of New York City Ballet."
Since the news was announced, both Catazaro and Ramasar have spoken out publicly about being fired.
What does it mean to be human? Well, many things. But if you were at the Dance Magazine Awards last night, you could argue that to be human is to dance. Speeches about the powerful humanity of our art form were backed up with performances by incredible dancers hailing from everywhere from Hubbard Street Dance Chicago to Miami City Ballet.
Misty Copeland started off the celebration. A self-professed "Dance Magazine connoisseur from the age of 13," she not only spoke about how excited she was to be in a room full of dancers, but also—having just come from Dance Theatre of Harlem's memorial for Arthur Mitchell—what she saw as their duty: "We all in this room hold a responsibility to use this art for good," she said. "Dance unifies, so let's get to work."
That sentiment was repeated throughout the night.
Choreographer Val Caniparoli started his ballet career by performing in Lew Christensen's The Nutcracker with San Francisco Ballet in 1971. Today, he still performs with SFB as Drosselmeir, in the company's current version by Helgi Tomasson.
It takes Caniparoli a lot of concentration to stick to the choreography.
"I have the four versions that I choreographed of the role in my head, plus the original I danced for years by Lew," he says. "That's a lot of versions to keep straight."
A list of Clara alumnae from Radio City's Christmas Spectacular reads like a star-studded, international gala program: Tiler Peck and Brittany Pollack of New York City Ballet (and Broadway), Meaghan Grace Hinkis of The Royal Ballet, Whitney Jensen of Norwegian National Ballet and more. Madison Square Garden's casting requirements for the role are simple: The dancer should be 4' 10" and under, appear to be 14 years old or younger and have strong ballet technique and pointework.
The unspoken requisite? They need abundant tenacity at a very young age.
When I read last month that Jessica Lang Dance had announced its farewell, I'm sure I wasn't the only dancer surprised. In the same way that many of us, when reading an obituary, instinctively look for the cause of death, I searched for a reason for the company's unexpected folding. It was buried in the fifth paragraph of The New York Times article:
Her manager, Margaret Selby, said in an interview that Jessica Lang Dance's closing showed how difficult it is to keep a small dance company running these days. "You have to raise so much money, the smaller companies don't have enough staff, and Jessica was running the company for the last seven years without a day off," she said. "She wants to focus on creative work."
Whereas the announcement itself may have come as a shock, the root cause certainly doesn't. All of us in the field are familiar with the conditions to which Selby refers. But that these problems can topple the success of a company like Lang's, which boasts seven years of national and international touring that include commissions from Jacob's Pillow and The Joyce, among others, is sobering.